Can an iPad lover love the Motorola XOOM?
You know I'm an iPad freak. I was first in line to buy one and I've used it so much my screen is cracked. It is the device that's changed my life more than any other in the past year, which, in a year that Microsoft Kinect shipped, is totally impressive. For the past few days I've had a Motorola XOOM. I accepted a loaner because I wanted to prove that it would suck next to an iPad.
One problem: I'm falling in love with it. With a couple of caveats. First, the caveats:
1. There aren't any apps that are designed for it yet. I have three "secret" apps that will be out soon, but three goes against, what, 30,000+ for iPad?
2. The iPad 2 is coming. I'll be at the Apple press conference on March 2.
So, those two caveats out of the way, what do I love about it?
1. Some parts of Android are better designed than iOS. Multitasking just seems to work better for me than the way you do it on iOS. In the video I did you see why, it takes fewer clicks to switch apps.
2. Notifications are much nicer on Android. Along the bottom right it shows me when new emails and other things come in. Very well thought out, and way better than notifications on iPad.
3. Battery life seemed equal, although I need more time to really figure out whether it's as good as the iPad, which has extraordinary battery life.
4. Having cameras on the device is very nice. I used it last night at a discussion at Stanford and I filmed it. Because of the size of the XOOM it came out a lot steadier than anything I film with my iPhones. (This advantage will only last a month or so over iPad 2, but it's there). I can see using the other camera to do videoconferencing, too. Yeah, it's not the highest resolution camera you've ever seen on a mobile device, but it works pretty well, I'll try to get a video up tonight from it.
5. HDMI connector. I have an HD screen downstairs. Here I can hook it up without buying a hyper-expensive Apple connector.
6. Better resolution and form factor, especially for video. I love watching video on my iPad. Netflix rocks on it, especially when the kids have taken over my TV set. But I like the higher resolution of the XOOM (1280 pixels across instead of only 1024) and I like the longer and narrower form factor, which fits video better than the iPad does.
7. The widgets on the home screen let me just glance down at my tablet to see info. I now am keeping it on my desk at work as a third monitor, and that's nice.
8. The docking station makes a nice desktop stand, although it's a bit weird to figure out how to get the XOOM to dock once you figure that out it makes a nice desktop stand.
9. The browser feels closer to Google Chrome than Safari does. It has one box for URLs and search, which I really love (the two box system Safari has feels lame in comparison) and it has tabs, just like my Chrome does on my desktop.
10. Speaker system in the XOOM is better than the iPad and it has stereo speakers.
11. Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Calendar apps are way better than the ones on iPad -- as you might expect.
So, take this all together, and I really love the new Motorola XOOM. I will be buying it because it's the best of the Android-based devices I have seen, and I need one to track all the apps over the next year and compare them to what's on iPad.
That said, will I recommend my dad get one? No. Not this year. Why? No apps that have been specifically designed for the 10-inch tablet, which in my experience does demand new apps. Yes, Android phone apps "stretch" to bigger sizes a lot better than iPhone apps did when stretched up, but, sorry, we haven't seen great apps like the History of Jazz, Aweditorium, NPR, BBC, Flipboard, Heritage, etc, like what you see on iPad.
The apps are all that matters for the market and Android does not have them yet. That said, Android is in a better spot than HP's TouchPad or RIM's PlayBook, and I believe it will take the #2 spot, mostly because of the strength of its mobile app community on phones.
Some other minor nits. I don't like the surface on the back of the device. It isn't consistent, which makes part of the back collect more dirt than the strip with the cameras and speakers. Also, the on button is in a weird place. I've hit it a couple of times accidentally because it's where you hold the device with your left hand.
Finally, is it worth $800? Not for the mass market due to the lack of apps. If you don't care about the lack of apps, then yes. It brings Android solidly into the tablet world and brings Apple some significant competition.
I can't wait to see that iPad 2, which will probably change some of these opinions.
Reprinted with permission.
Robert Scoble is a long-time tech and video blogger who works for Rackspace, where he is part of the building 43 project. He started blogging in 2000 at scobelizer.com; from 2003-2006 he was a high-profile Microsoft evangelist blogger, and he helped start Channel 9. Scoble grew up in Silicon Valley. He is @scobleizer on Twitter.